What Car? says...
Historically, BMW coupés have just been swoopier and less practical versions of their saloon car counterparts. Not any more, though – the BMW 4 Series is a rakish model in its own right, and entirely justifies its slightly higher price despite having fewer doors.
Sure, the 4 Series is still based on the same underpinnings as the more sensibly shaped BMW 3 Series saloon, but you probably wouldn't guess it from the styling. Indeed, the 4 Series looks quite different from anything else in the BMW range, mainly thanks to a face that (let’s be honest) not everyone will love.
Then again, surely that’s better than something bland that elicits a series of ‘mehs’ from your friends and family when the time comes to show off your new wheels. And remember, BMW has a history of making cars that look quite controversial when they first appear but somehow get prettier as the years go by.
The differences compared with the 3 Series are more than skin deep, too. BMW has widened the rear of the car, lowered the centre of gravity, retuned the suspension and stiffened the chassis. All that should help make the 4 Series even more agile and capable through the corners. In other words, make it a car with performance to match its racy looks.
That's what we'll tell you over the next few pages of this review, where we'll rate it for performance, interior quality and practicality, as well as telling you our favourite engine and trim options.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The most powerful BMW 4 Series (bar the ridiculously quick BMW M4 which has its own separate review) is the M440i, with its 369bhp six-cylinder, 3.0-litre petrol engine. That’s a lot of power, so it’s a good job that it's fed to all four wheels for better traction.
Indeed, the M440i gets going so well that it can hit 62mph from a standstill in just 4.5sec – which just pips the rival Audi S5 and Mercedes-AMG C43. It feels pleasingly potent from low down in the rev range, although it’s more than happy to keep singing all the way to its red line.
Still, the entry-level, rear-wheel-drive 181bhp 420i petrol is our pick of the range. It's quick enough to be fun (0-62mph takes 7.5sec) and loves to be revved, which is in keeping with the character of a sporty coupé. You can also opt for a more powerful version of this engine, the 430i, which delivers its power in a more effortless manner. It offers a slightly more relaxed driving experience, but we don't feel it's worth the extra outlay.
Those racking up serious miles might want to consider the 420d diesel. It provides far more oomph than the 420i below 3000rpm and the 0-62mph time drops to 7.1sec, with extra low-down urgency that makes B-road overtakes a cinch.
A four-wheel-drive (xDrive) 420d is also available, but is unnecessary unless you’re expecting plenty of snow. You also get four-wheel drive as standard on the monstrous-sounding 335bhp M440d – we'll let you know how it performs once we've been behind the wheel.
Every 4 Series gets variable steering as standard. It ramps up assistance to save you from excessive arm-twirling when parking, but offers less help on faster roads to prevent the car from feeling hyper-reactive to tiny steering adjustments. It's not perfect, because the car can still feel a bit sensitive to quick inputs at higher speeds. That can be mitigated by switching to Sport mode, which adds weight to the steering to give a greater sense of connection to the front wheels and make it easier to judge how much input is required.
The 4 Series' standard passive suspension is noticeably stiffer than the set-up in the BMW 3 Series, which has the positive impact of reducing body lean. That allows you to scythe through corners more enthusiastically than in the Audi A5 and the Mercedes C-Class Coupé. However, because it's more focused on delivering poise and control than wafty comfort, you feel more of bumps as they pass beneath the car than in the best versions of the A5.
For that reason, we recommend the optional adaptive suspension that comes as part of the M Sport Pro Package (which is standard on M Sport Pro Edition models and on the M440i and M440d). That lets you stiffen or soften the ride at the touch of the button. Comfort mode makes the 4 Series much calmer around town and delivers a very smooth ride on A-roads and motorways.
In terms of refinement, the 420i and 430i are smooth and quiet enough when you’re pottering around, with a more rorty edge when pushed hard, while the 420d is prone to a bit more vibration through the steering wheel at idle. The M440i is the best sounding 4 Series – its six-cylinder engine noise is wonderfully soulful, especially compared with the S5's muted diesel bellow.
Every 4 Series benefits from mild hybrid technology, giving it the ability to run with the engine switched off in certain situations. It helps to smooth out the start/stop system and means the 4 Series is far less hesitant than the A5 when setting off. Happily, there isn't much wind noise at motorway speeds, but road noise is slightly more pronounced than in many versions of the A5.
The interior layout, fit and finish
If there’s one area where the BMW 4 Series does feel just like the BMW 3 Series it’s the interior. The driving position, for example, is almost identical, as are the dashboard and infotainment system.
In many ways, that's great news. Okay, you could be behind the wheel of an executive saloon, but a very good one, with a comfortable and supportive driver’s seat (as long as you add optional adjustable lumbar support) and lots of adjustment. If you want a sporty feel, you’ll probably also appreciate the fact that you sit closer to the road than in the Audi A5.
True, interior quality in the 4 Series isn’t quite up there with the A5, but the margins are small. Build quality is first rate and better than in the Mercedes C-Class Coupé. Only the odd bit of hard plastic and some silver-painted buttons on the dashboard let the side down a little.
The infotainment is truly brilliant. All versions get a 10.3in display that you can either use as a touchscreen or operate by twisting and pressing a rotary controller between the front seats. The controller is much less distracting when you’re driving and, combined with a super-intuitive operating system, is one of the main reasons we prefer the 4 Series’ infotainment to the A5’s.
All trims come with a DAB radio, built-in sat-nav, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring (so you can run your phone apps through the touchscreen). The optional 464W, 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system (available in Technology and Technology Plus packs, or as a standalone option) sounds epic.
Wireless phone-charging is provided as part of the Technology Pack, which also happens to include a rather gimmicky gesture control function for the infotainment system.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
No one buys a two-door coupé like the BMW 4 Series for its practicality, but the chances are you occasionally need four seats and a usable boot. Otherwise you’d probably be looking at a thoroughbred sports car – perhaps the Alpine A110 or Porsche 718 Cayman.
As you might expect, the 4 Series is suitably roomy in the front so you’re unlikely to have any issues with head or leg room. Storage space is impressive too, thanks to a big glovebox and a useful cubby under the centre armrest. You also get partitioned door bins to stop loose items rolling around.
Getting into the back seats involves squeezing through a relatively narrow gap, but that’s true of any car lacking rear doors (if you do want those, have a look at the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé).
Once you’re in, you’ll find plenty of leg room, and although taller adults will need to cower slightly or put up with their head resting on the ceiling, two six-footers will be comfortable enough in the back as long as the journey isn’t too long.
The 4 Series has a slightly smaller boot than its two main rivals, the Audi A5 and Mercedes C-Class Coupé. There’s enough space for a set of golf clubs or a small pushchair, though, and you can fold down the rear seats when you need to carry longer loads. The boot opening is smaller than the A5’s.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Prices for the BMW 4 Series start slightly above the Audi A5 but that’s partly because the 4 Series is available only in relatively high-end trims and the entry-level engines are a bit more powerful. If you look at similarly specced versions of both cars, there's not much difference in price. The equivalent Mercedes C-Class Coupé costs a little bit more.
If you’re a company car driver, the 420d diesel will cost you the least in monthly salary sacrifices and net you the most miles to the gallon. The 420i petrol is a cheaper option for those buying with cash or on PCP finance and is expected to hold on to its value better against depreciation than its rivals.
The range kicks off with sporty M Sport trim, which comes with plenty of standard goodies, including 18in alloys, leather seats (heated in the front), cruise control and three-zone climate control. We’d recommend paying extra for adjustable lumbar support and getting the M Sport Pro pack for its adaptive suspension.
M Sport Pro Edition gives you a choice of three exclusive exterior colours and adds 19in alloys, sportier styling, tinted windows and the M Sport Pro Package. The range-topping M440i is very similarly equipped to the M Sport Pro Edition but, of course, you get that mighty six-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet.
Safety experts Euro NCAP have tested the 4 Series (in conjunction with the BMW 3 Series it's based on) and awarded it a full five stars. It achieved highly impressive scores in each specific area that was tested.
It has plenty of safety kit as standard, including automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane-departure warning. The optional Driving Assistant Professional pack (which comes as part of the Technology Plus Pack) adds adaptive cruise control, a more advanced lane-keeping assistant, a front cross-traffic alert system and automatic speed-limit assist.
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|RRP price range||£44,180 - £59,180|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||2|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||36.7 - 44.1|
|Available doors options||2|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£2,895 / £4,299|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£5,791 / £8,598|